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3D printing is an attractive technique that revolutionizes the world of science and technology at a rapid rate. After the early start of technology, 3D printing continues to engulf every field of our lives with hope and creativity. Taking advantage of the ongoing advancement of printing technologies, methods and applications, this highly desirable technique has never ceased to transform the fields of architecture, engineering, prototyping, medicine, therapy, building and sculpture (Abrams). The integration of 3D printing and additive manufacturing has taken the world of manufacturing, design and engineering to a new height by facilitating a smart, precise and highly sophisticated replication of digital and physical work (""Current Trends of Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace Industry" 34). The industry growth of the technology has been remarkable; a record 35.2% industry growth has been recorded in the year 2014 alone (Hendrick). Despite a little slowdown in 2015, the market growth has returned to normal rate because of easily accessible and highly cost-effective advantages of innovative 3D technology. The technology is helping many other technology and scientific field to grow and will eventually have a great impact on the society and world. This paper discusses advances in 3D technology in various fields including healthcare, medicine, manufacturing and education.
The 3D technology has begun back in 1984 but it started catching people’s notice very recently (Hendrick). 3D printing, as the name suggests, a printing technique that creates 3D objects from three dimensional digital models created via computer aided software or application. Unlike 2D printing technology that generally replicates the texts, arts, designs or drawing on a two-dimensional sheet or paper, this printing technology creates three dimensional solid physical objects through laying out successive thin layers of different raw materials (Horvath 16). The raw materials include glass, metal, plastic, fiber, or ceramics.
The basic idea of 3D printing is simple and it is identical to 2D printing to some extent. The printer considers a 3D object model, feed to it for printing, consists of thousands of tiny layers and starts printing one layer at a time. The most commonly used 3D printing technology is the power bed fusion technology, in which a laser or electron beam travels over a bed of fine powers from raw materials. The laser moves over the top layer of the powder and melt it to form the first layer of the object being printed. The layer fuses powders around it and becomes heavy to slide down a bit under the power. The laser or electron beam then continues to melt successive layers of power one over another and fuses them together until the final product is made (Gibson, et al).
Advances in 3D Technology
3D technology has been continuously renovating and revolutionizing the medical science and healthcare sector through its evolving and adaptive techniques. Many unimaginable but highly demanding health needs are now possible to meet through mesmerizing development of
the 3D technology. Starting from prosthetic to medicine, almost every sector of healthcare has benefited from the advancement of 3D technology. Researchers predict further growth of the industry that will help individual print their prosthetic body parts at their home, with no guarantee of the proper matching.
3D technology has escalated artificial body part manufacturing process through its advances in precision and low-cost manufacturing process that can replace complex geometry of human anatomy. 3D printed prosthetic limb is now tangible reality; each year thousands of people from in poor countries are laying on surgeons’ bed to attach 3D printed limbs and other body parts that are as cheap as $40-$50 and can function as good as physical body part (Birrell). This has changed the lives of many poor people who were living under poverty level just being incapacitated by lost organs. Handicapped people are seeing new possibilities with life through this low-cost organ manufacturing development of the 3D printing technology.
Medical instrumentation has achieved major development through the advancement of 3D printing technology. Placement of surgical devices inside human body is easier and cheaper because 3D printing technology can make these devices to be fit with a deviation closest to the millimeter from patient’s internal anatomy. 3D printed surgical tools such as surgical guides, bacteria-killing tweezers and other medical tools are likely to facilitate the complex surgery greatly (Scott).
The development of 3D printing technology to create functional and living body parts such as liver, kidney, heart etc. is now progressing on researchers’ table. The main obstacle of creating functional body part being keeping the cell and tissue of the part alive, scientists have invented a new way of placing exact number of live cells in exact place from living animal’s body in printed the 3D organs body parts (Griggs). A prototype ear printed using this method has successfully lived on a mouse for about 60-days; the most interesting finding in this experiment was that the body of the mouse has taken over the ear naturally and started integrating it to the body by growing new cells and tissues (Lavars). The process of printing living and healthy cells and tissue is known as bioprinting. Bioprinting has the potential to revolutionize the field of medical and stem cell research by storming cell and tissue culture process. Replacement of lost organs will be easier and cheaper if this project succeeds.
3D printing is changing the drug manufacturing and testing process rapidly. Scientists are working on a 3D printer that will be capable of printing molecules (Cronin). This printer is likely to traditional way of drug manufacturing; patient will go to drugstores with physician’s prescription for purchasing blue print and chemical compounds for their prescribed drugs and will print their drugs at home using 3D printers. This technology is likely to facilitate production of more advanced level drugs in a highly controlled and perfect environmental condition that will be free from any concern of being expired. Moreover, scientists have now started testing new drugs on 3D printed body organs instead of real humans, which eliminates the risk of developing side effects or any negative health consequences on volunteer’s body (Yi, et al. 16).
Manufacturing is the key part of many businesses and industry, which accounts for the major operating costs of a business. 3D technology has hit this crucial section of business by brining fundamental changes into the manufacturing design and process. A growth of $5.20 billion is expected in the 3D printing industry that is related to manufacturing by the year 2020 (Thompson).
The world economy will be experiencing a major rise from market growth and product innovation by 3D printing technology. Thousands of new competitors will enter the traditional market and billions of innovative products will scramble the consumer market as manufacturing and prototyping is fairly easy and reasonably cheaper and less risky than traditional way. Continuous battle between manufacturer and business competitors will largely facilitate consumers in enjoying quality products at cheaper price. 3D printing technology is likely to create a level-playing ground both for large and small scale manufacturer because the cost of production does not favor economies of scale (Thomson).
3D printing will save material cost and help manufacturers keep their price margin low. 3D printing technology has the potential to offer an infinite set of production options, most of which are extremely impeccable and produces less wastages. Unlike traditional “subtractive process” of manufacturing where a product is made and shaped by cutting or eliminating excess part of a large material block. Most of the excess part of the material block goes to wastage and impact the production cost. On the other hand, 3D printing technology works on additive manufacturing method that manufactures products layer-by-layer basis and does not involve any material wastage. The cost saving impacts overall business and helps the business remain cost competitive in the dynamic market. Moreover, waste management improves significantly and the environmental degradation reduces down to minimal level due to low waste manufacturing system (Thomson).
3D printing technology facilitates fast manufacturing process that helps companies remain strict to their deadline and prevent product outage problems. Recently many 3D printers have been developed that are capable of giving higher output rate as compared to traditional manufacturing process. Scientists are developing fully automated technology that will eliminate need for large workforce for operating the manufacturing process. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IOT) technology, scientists are now working on developing remote controllable 3D printers that will facilitate continuous production without the operating being present physically near the printer (LEE). The Telegraph’s industry editor Tovey remarks how 3D printing technology is likely to change the retail industry through its on-spot, on-demand production capacity; he exemplifies how Amazon is planning to manufacture consumer product at consumer’s door using their mobile 3D manufacturing printers hoisted over trucks following consumer’s online order. This is likely to reduce production cost, inventory cost, transportation cost as well as ensure customer satisfaction (p. Engineering).
Recent development of printing welder has reduced the size constraints of 3D printer to a large extent. The size of the printing object is limited to the size of the printer that can hold it, which limits large size printing impossible. With the advent of printing welder, it is now possible to print anything of any size using 3D printing robotic arm. Scientists are now working on a 3D printed bridge using this technique that will find its place on Amsterdam canal (Abrams). Scientists are now seeing new horizon in construction engineering based on the development of the 3D printing technology.
Due to speed constraints, many manufacturing processes could not use 3D printing technology in mass production cases. The Carbon 3D company is set to develop 3D printers that are capable of printing 3D objects at 300 to 1000 times faster than the current printers. Obviously, it will change the process of manufacturing and bring a major breakthrough in the industrial production.
The rapid development and integration of 3D printing technology in the field of education is creating a massive turmoil of change. Students and teachers are now getting heavily involved with the technology for better learning and enhanced perception. To create clear understanding of a topic or a product, neither of them need to rely on virtual model anymore. 3D technology has been rapidly merging with the academic domain by offering smooth and nearly identical 3D solid model of almost everything that can lend to student’s understanding. Conceptualization through visualization is easy now with the help of the technology.
Researcher and scientists are largely indebted to the technology as it helps them test their hypothesis and check the validity of their contest through materialization by using 3D printing technology. For example, in healthcare, it is now possible to fabricate human organs that are exact replica of the complex geometry of body anatomy. In this way, healthcare researcher no longer needs to depend on plastic prototype or work on fleshy and uncomfortable body parts of dead human (Yi, et al.).
The high growth rate of 3D printers in school education is already paying off in the development many education sectors. A report shows that about 60% of US schools have 3D printers 55% of which are used in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics related education (Klosterman). Scientists are now working on developing new 3D printers that are student-friendly and can suit to specific education purposes.
Development in Printing Materials
The major breakthrough in 3D printing technology can be attributed to the development of low-cost, durable and highly efficient printing raw materials including carbon nanomaterials and biomaterials. Previously the printing materials were limited to plastics, metals, chemicals and ceramics. With the advent of carbon nanotechnology, it is possible to create highly strong, durable and extremely rugged structures from 3D printing. Scientists have discovered a way of tissue culturing on different materials used for lively organ manufacturing, which will open the door to millions of possibilities in medicine and healthcare (Coward).
3D printing technology is just passing its infancy but its proliferation and worldwide acceptance in every sector of life is inevitable. No single technology today has the potential to dominate every field of science and technology including manufacturing, construction, education, healthcare, engineering, art and environment. Numerous historic shift of traditional technology and techniques are underway based on the promising advancement 3D printing technology. This technology has been impacting the economy and encouraging business through its capability to produce low cost designs and products. The growth of the industry and rate of advancement in the field of 3D technology–based on the development of printing raw materials and computer aided designs–have been attractive; the proliferation rate is likely to influence every other technology in recent future. Manufacturing of low cost product, replacement of vital body organs, enhancement of learning environment, and facilitating different types of researches are key advances of 3D printing technology, which are likely to fill the void created by lack of funds and resources. Soon the world the entire world will enjoy the benefits brought about by the technology and will continue to see inevitable takeover of the technology.
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